3 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Originally Published May 17, 2017. 

Congratulations! Your child is graduating from college–but parents of graduating seniors all over are wondering: Is there a J-O-B lined up on the other side of the commencement ceremony?

If not, this can be an anxious time for parents, says Avis Hinkson, dean of Barnard College, the women’s college affiliated with Columbia University.

“There is opportunity for misunderstanding,” Hinkson said. “Students don’t know how to navigate the next thing.”

Hinkson recommends that parents guide, not chide, their graduating seniors. As dean of the college, she provides counsel and resources to more than 2,400 students.

Below are three tips from Barnard’s dean. Hinkson advises that parents assess the following to most effectively help their children navigate this stage of life:

How much assistance to provide

Think hard about whether you are willing and able to help your child. What can you offer and for how long? Whether it’s financial assistance or housing, parents need to plan ahead and be upfront about the possibilities, limitations, and boundaries. For example, if a child returns home, are you willing to provide housing but expect that certain chores will be done in exchange? Will you cover a few months’ rent in a new city?

How to help with a job hunt

Finding a first post-grad job can be emotionally taxing. Consider using your own professional resources. Can you make introductions to connections for informational interviews or job shadowing? Perhaps you could help your child reconnect with a former mentor, such as a high school guidance counselor; or forge new relationships with a local chapter of the alumni association.


Figuring out “what’s next”

New grads may feel pressed to jump straight into a career. Instead of just asking, “What’s next?” help your son or daughter develop short- and long-term plans. For example, perhaps a short-term solution for your son is to accept a position outside his degree or “dream job” interests. Outlining a long-term approach–even for five years–may alleviate some stress. You can also reinforce that it’s just as important for your child to know what she doesn’t want as what she does.

“Parents need to ask themselves tough questions about their expectations and ability to help before broaching ‘The Talk” with their children,” Hinkson says. “They can act as coaches by starting a conversation that takes off some pressure and is supportive, but that’s clear and leads to solutions. You want to keep these conversations fluid and open, and check your assumptions.”